⋆⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Unrated: In Turkish, subtitled.
This is the winter of Mr. Aydin’s discontent. It’s one of many. A hotel owner in gorgeous rural Anatolia, Aydin (played by the masterfully expressive Haluk Bilginer, who never rings false) connects poorly with his ravishing young wife (Melisa Sozen). He considers her too charitable with the fortune he inherited from his parents, and suspects the new schoolteacher is her perfectly shallow new lover.
He’s equally distant from his gruff sister (Demet Akbag) and nearby citizens, several of whom apologetically struggle to pay rent on his properties. Aydin is perfectly in touch, however, with his ego. Retired from a minor acting career, he fills his time writing a self-celebrating newspaper column about the history of the area’s drama scene.
Palme d’Or winner at last year’s Cannes festival, the film by Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has a richly Chekhovian atmosphere. It holds a grimly mocking focus on Aydin’s weakness and failures for 196 superbly absorbing minutes. Every step pushes things in a hard, new direction. When the passive-aggressive Aydin goes on a drive with his handyman, the son of a suffering tenant tries to bean him with a rock. The resulting broken window puts the tenant in deeper debt, sparking an even grittier rivalry with Aydin that pushes his wife further away.
“Winter Sleep” isn’t labored like Ingmar Bergman’s “Scenes From a Marriage.” There’s even a possibility in the finale that life might become a bit better for some. Ceylan has created a grimly ironic portrait of a man with prodigious pride and no shortage of self-esteem. COLIN COVERT
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: PG for mild action, rude humor.
“Paddington” brings children’s book hero Paddington Bear to the screen in a movie as sweet as orange marmalade, as sentimental as a stuffed toy from childhood.
Displaced by an earthquake, Paddington heads for busy, brusque London, where the Brown family takes pity on him and brings him home. Mrs. Brown is played by the eternally sympathetic Sally Hawkins (“Happy”). Her husband (Hugh Bonneville of “Downton Abbey”), an insurance risk analyst, is against the idea, though. “Seven percent of all accidents begin with jumping,” he chastises their son, who loves the bear in an instant.
There’s much kid-friendly kerfuffle about a bear loose in a modern toilet (toothbrushes can clean bear ears). There are Brit cameos — new “Doctor Who” Peter Capaldi, Matt “Little Britain” Lucas, Oscar winner Jim Broadbent — and a villain, too. Nicole Kidman turns her sexy whisper into a menacing one as a museum taxidermist who would love to have “this specimen.” Ben Whishaw, the new “Q” in the James Bond movies, voices Paddington with an innocent, impeccably polite pitch that suits the bear. And the effects are so good you may forget he’s animated. This is a big, flowing-fur leap from “Ted.” Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
THE WEDDING RINGER
⋆⋆½ out of four stars
Rating: R for language.
This is “Wedding Crashers Redux,” or a “Hangover Lite” that softens manic comedian Kevin Hart’s persona into someone almost as funny, but more sentimental than abrasive. Like “Crashers,” it’s built on a killer conceit: a guy who hires himself out as a rent-a-best-man. Jimmy Callahan (Hart) rescues grooms who, in our overworked and digitally isolated culture, have failed to create long-term friendships.
Jimmy is the life of the party at weddings of all races and genders. He’s so good at knowing the groom’s heart, he leaves the room in tears — every time. Occasionally, a client suggests that they pal around afterward, but Jimmy keeps his distance.
Enter sad sack Doug (Josh Gad, in a breakout role). Doug is about to marry a bombshell (Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting) and he’s rich enough to afford the Golden Tux, Jimmy’s full-service treatment. A savvy, sassy script, smart casting and genuine “I feel sorry for this white boy” chemistry between Hart and Gad make “The Wedding Ringer” an R-rated bromance that will touch you as often as it tickles you.
THE SEARCH FOR GENERAL TSO
⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars
Theater: St. Anthony Main.
This film’s top-billed star gets its close-up in the opening scene: a menu photo shoot of the namesake chicken dish. But like so many “in search of” documentaries before it, Ian Cheney’s film has bigger quarry in mind: the history of Chinese-American assimilation, the useful adaptability of cuisine and the complicated cultivation of heritage. While it lacks the zest or cinematic skill of, say, a Les Blank jaunt involving food, Cheney’s easily digestible movie proves an apt vessel for the mystery dish at its center. NICOLAS RAPOLD, New York Times
⋆½ out of four stars
Unrated but includes violence, nudity, profanity.
Theater: Eden Prairie.
Bruce Willis has aged into a fit, bald menace, best suited to chewy supporting parts in ensemble action pictures. Thomas Jane, on the other hand, is a grizzled actor forever doomed to play unshaven cops. But he is every bit as good as Willis at delivering a one-liner with panache. In this low-budget sci-fi thriller that borrows heavily from “Blade Runner” and “Westworld,” he is a cop trying to track down an escaped “artificial,” a clone/robot used as fodder for sex and violence fantasies at a resort run by a villainous businessman (Willis). It’s all rather malnourished, but not nearly as sad as one might expect. R.M.
⋆⋆ out of four stars
Rating: PG-13 for language, violence.
Theater: Mall of America, Southdale.
A pleasant outsiders-beat-the-odds dramedy, “Spare Parts” is about undocumented Latino high schoolers who enter a robot-building competition. If you’ve ever seen “Stand and Deliver” or “Race the Sun” (about underprivileged teens building an electric car for a competition), you know how this goes. George Lopez dials down his comic shtick as a science teacher who helps out. “Spare Parts” makes a point about America’s attitude toward this disposable corner of our population, and does it with heart, if not a lot of laughs or originality. R.M.